Students seek out greener pastures to avoid recession

 

OPINION:I DID not grow up in the 1980s but shoulder pads, Bananarama and mass emigration are not things I regret missing out on. The first two I can avoid easily enough, but the last one has come back into fashion, writes SHANE FITZGERALD

The career choice for more and more young Irish graduates is to leave these bankrupt shores and escape to greener pastures. All of my fellow 2009 graduates seem to have fled Ireland, the same as myself, or else have retreated into a master’s degree for one more year’s insulation from the real world. Are we back to the brain drain of the 1980s?

Graduating into a recession could be more depressing than an Emily Dickinson poetry recital but I started out with an air of unshakeable optimism. I was young, bright and had managed to get an economics and sociology degree.

My three years of studying graphs, statistics and budgets can only be compared to undergoing a facelift. It was painful, difficult and expensive, but at the end of it all I knew was I was going to be more attractive to employers. I was living in the midst of a “knowledge economy” after all.

As the rejection letters began to come in, I could not help but feel a little cheated. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I was on a promise with the Government, but I was led to believe I would be getting more action than this once I graduated. I realised I wasn’t going to get a decent job anytime soon and it became clear that the only boom taking place was in my overdraft account.

The graduating class of 2009 missed the Celtic Tiger party and are trying to live it up in a country that is in the middle of a terrible hangover. Sign on or sign out are the choices that face us.

I wasn’t ready to sign on aged 22 so I signed out of the country. Whether it was for an adventure, better career prospects or both doesn’t really matter. I, along with a vast number of my young compatriots, know a win-win situation when we see one. I could retain my high spirits but it wouldn’t last long in this gloomy atmosphere. It was time to go.

London was my destination of choice, partly due to my love of the city and party due to cheap Ryanair flights. I am lucky enough to have found employment rather easily since I came over here. London is not a good place to be unemployed. With the dole being a meagre £60 a week (about €66), it makes Ireland’s social welfare system look positively communist.

Over the summer I managed to convince a theatre to let me run their front of house. The musicals were my firm favourites – there’s never any recession in musicals.

When that run ended, the only other work I could find was as a recruitment consultant. There is something rather bewildering when the only job I can find is finding other people jobs. It pays the rent, so I won’t complain. I might not be in my dream role but I am having a good time and getting experience.

Will I return to Ireland anytime soon? Not even the prospect of listening to Mary Coughlan explain “Einstein’s theory of evolution” can entice me home just yet. When close to 1,000 people line O’Connell Street in Dublin for part-time seasonal work at Marks Spencer, it isn’t a good omen of things to come.

I am part of the post-boom emigrants and I think I will stay in this club for the moment. Being “back in the 1980s” doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom though. Maybe we will start winning the Eurovision again, Gay Byrne could reclaim the Late Late Show and, who knows, U2 might even start releasing great albums once more.

It is easy to write about how awful the economy is and the mess this Government got us into. It is a worldwide recession but we have, without doubt, been one of the worst affected.

Irish university students were promised the world and now the world seems to be getting us, in increasing numbers.

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